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SeeFare — Beaufort, NC

SeeFare — Beaufort, NC

 Beaufort (BOH-fort) is the third oldest city in North Carolina and is located in the “Inner Banks” region. If that seems to ring a bell, North Carolina is well known for a string of barrier islands called the Outer Banks. The city is home to the Duke University Marine Lab, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research and the wonderful North Carolina Maritime Museum of Beaufort. The Beaufort inlet is also where Blackbeard, the famous pirate, ran his flagship Queen Anne’s Revenge aground. That was the very moment the famous pirate saying “ARRRRRGH” was coined!  OK, the ARRRRRGH part is baloney but it could have happened!

And we certainly had no need for baloney sandwiches on this stop.  There are restaurants aplenty but we had the chance to try only two in our short stay there.  Both were with Captain Pauly and Admiral Jojo (you may also know them as Nuts and Beans).  The two restaurants, Beaufort Grocery Company and Aqua Restaurant are rated in the moderate price range but we chose them because of the great reviews we had read about the food.

Beaufort Grocery Company
It’s an interesting name and one we thought would mean they also sell groceries, but not so –though they do offer packed picnic baskets and delicious desserts at the front counter. We were excited to learn that Chef Charles Park was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York which is in our neck of the woods.  His wife Wendy runs the front of the house and is a Pastry Chef!  Quite a talented team.  The place is charming and evokes a bit of a French country bistro.

We had called ahead for a reservation but wouldn’t have needed to.  It had a nice crowd and we got a cozy table toward the back.  I regret to say that you will see no food pictures from this meal, only my description of what we had.  I could say it was low lighting and the pictures didn’t turn out, or that they weren’t presented well but the truth is we were hungry little piggies and the minute those beautifully presented, delicious looking plates of food were set in front of us the only sound heard was the scramble for silverware.  About halfway through my meal and a louder than needed, “oh shit,” Jojo, who can read my mind like a short story immediately said, “you forgot to take pictures didn’t you?!”  Indeed I did!  Use your imaginations, folks.

Pauly and A.J. both got the freshly caught Yellowfin tuna encrusted in smoked sea salt with sweet chili yogurt, black truffle oil and fried leeks over rice and seasonal vegetables.  The tuna was seared to perfection and the sweet chili yogurt gave the dish great balance and depth.  The fried leeks were finely julienned, perfectly crunchy and made for a beautiful presentation atop the fish.

Jojo and I had the feature of the evening, the freshly caught North Carolina Red Drum Fish, panko dusted and topped with pan seared, lightly peppered shrimp over rice and seasonal vegetables finished in a champagne cream.  The fish was perfect, sweet and moist and the shrimp were seasoned and seared to pop with the champagne cream sauce — which was rich but tamed a bit by the rice.  Both dishes were exceptional.  We did manage to get a shot of our pleased faces after the fact…

Aqua Restaurant is tucked about midway down a backstreet.  It’s a cozy place with an eclectic feel and we were seated in a nice booth.  I got a bit distracted by the lighting which seemed a bit to cool for the warm space, but I wasn’t there to eat the lights so I quickly moved on to the wonderful drinks that arrived at our table.  What better distraction than an excellently mixed cocktail!

Jojo got the classic dirty.  A.J. and Pauly got the Herbal Twist martini — gin, St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, lemon juice and a lemon and rosemary garnish.  I got a Blackberry Herb martini —blackberry puree, fresh lime juice, cassis liqueur, herb-infused vodka, simple syrup and a lime garnish.  They were all delicious but I was the clear winner!

The extensive martini menu had a lot of great choices.

The menu was a refined selection of tapas, small plates and big plates and salads and desserts.  We weren’t too hungry so we decided to go with the small plates, which turned out to be just right and nicely proportioned.  The combinations of flavors on each plate — some simple, some more complex — made for another exceptional evening of dining.  I did manage to get pictures this time so I’ll let them do the talking. Lesson learned!

Jojo had the Certified Angus Beef filet cooked medium, red skin mashed potatoes with savory gouda covered in a veal demi-glace (a demi-glace is traditionally combining equal parts of veal stock and Espagnole sauce — one of the five mother sauces of classical French cuisine — and reducing to half) topped with a spicy, fried wonton and finished with a finely chopped parsley truffle oil.
Pauly chose a moist and delicious cast-iron seared North Carolina lump crab cake served over a colorful and zesty sweet corn, lima bean succotash with crisped-edge country ham drizzled with a lovely saffron-lemon aioli with fresh greens and…an orange marigold.
A.J., after tasting our fish the prior evening, went with the freshly caught North Carolina Red Drum Fish that was panko dusted and pan fried, served over saffron rice and roasted tomatoes, snap peas and mushrooms on a flavorful and well-balanced gouda cream sauce…with a yellow marigold.
I chose the perfectly blackened local tuna, seared rare on a bed of pickled marinated vegetables topped with a balsamic ginger glaze.

We enthusiastically recommend both of these restaurants and appreciated the freshness of their offerings, their attention to detail and their great waitstaff.  Unlike Blackbeard, our first impression here was not followed by…ARRRRRRGH!  Until we eat again, slainté — your seefaring Admiral


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